Biodiversity 2 min

A success for participatory cyanobacteria monitoring in Côte d’Ivoire

PRESS RELEASE — Have you ever seen a lake or pond where the water had turned green? The green colour comes from microorganisms that develop in the water when levels of phosphorus and nitrogen are high — a process called eutrophication. While in certain cases, eutrophication can benefit fish farming, it often triggers the development of cyanobacteria that can produce toxins harmful to human health. These microorganisms are closely monitored in developed countries to minimise the negative effect they can have on public health. In African countries, however, where high rates of population growth have led to a significant degradation of water quality, such monitoring is not commonplace. To this end, researchers from INRAE and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) worked with local research teams (Institut Pasteur of Côte d’Ivoire, Félix Houphouët-Boigny University) to carry out a pilot study on participatory approaches to cyanobacteria monitoring in Africa. Their findings, published on 24 September 2020 in the PLOS ONE journal, showed that local residents living by a body of water could effectively monitor its water quality, and its levels of cyanobacteria in particular, using a smartphone application.

Published on 25 September 2020

illustration A success for participatory cyanobacteria monitoring in Côte d’Ivoire
© Pixabay

In bodies of water used for drinking water and bathing, cyanobacteria monitoring is necessary because these microorganisms can produce toxins that are dangerous to human and animal health. Cyanobacterial blooms can happen quickly, change rapidly and can be distributed vertically or horizontally in a body of water. This makes monitoring complex and costly, which is why it is rarely carried out in developing countries, in Africa in particular.

This research was carried out as a part of an international project addressing the sustainable monitoring and management of surface water resources used for the production of drinking water in three African countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Uganda), with researchers from INRAE and CNRS testing the potential of a citizen approach for monitoring cyanobacterial blooms. The project was financed by the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM). 

The study was designed and carried out in close partnership with the Institute Pasteur of Côte d’Ivoire, Félix Houphouët-Boigny University and the inhabitants of three villages located on the shoreline of a freshwater lagoon near the city of Abidjan. Using a smartphone application, village residents were invited to report on changes in the colour of the water, which are indicative of cyanobacterial blooms. At the end of the two-year study, researchers collected 443 reports, the majority of which were contributed anonymously (92.8%). The study showed it is possible to mobilise local residents to monitor cyanobacterial blooms, and that data collected by local residents are consistent with data obtained through conventional monitoring techniques. Such a participatory approach also significantly improved the understanding and awareness of water quality and cyanobacterial bloom issues in the local community.

The research suggests that citizen monitoring of cyanobacterial blooms could be used to complement traditional monitoring techniques in developing countries.

 

Reference 

Mitroi V, Ahi KC, Bulot PY, Tra F, Deroubaix JF, et al. (2020) Can participatory approaches strengthen the monitoring of cyanobacterial blooms in developing countries? Results from a pilot study conducted in the Lagoon Aghien (Ivory Coast). PLOS ONE 15(9): e0238832. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0238832

 

INRAE Press Office

Scientific contact

Jean Francois HUMBERT Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences of Paris (iEES)

Centre

Division

Learn more

Climate change and risks

What we don't know (about lakes) could harm us

PRESS RELEASE - While extreme weather events are increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change, an international research team warned that lakes around the world could change dramatically, placing both ecosystem health and water quality at risk. They also noted the lack of information about the biological impact that strong storms have on lakes, particularly on phytoplankton, which are the base of food webs.

04 March 2020

Food, Global Health

Three questions for a start-up: Biomae

On-site biotesting to measure contamination levels, assess the toxicity of micropollutants and monitor water quality and aquatic habitats is now a reality in France thanks to Biomae, a start-up that grew and flourished in the IRSTEA (now INRAE) labs. The star of this success story is a tiny freshwater crustacean, the scud. We find out more from Guillaume Jubeaux, co-director of Biomae.

29 June 2020

Biodiversity

EpiCollect5, a citizen science app for the surveillance of aquatic environments

The citizen science app EpiCollect5 is a free mobile app developed as part of the WaSAf project. Initiated in February 2016, the WaSAf project on protecting surface water sources in Africa aims to set up methods to evaluate and monitor water quality in three African lakes which supply three major cities (Abidjan, Dakar and Kampala), and to prepare the initial measures required to enable the sustainable management of these ecosystems, their preservation and/or their restoration.

01 December 2019